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What are my rights when council / tax (ATO) / police / centrelink / public health visit my workplace?

Answer

Everyone involved in the sex industry has legal rights when dealing with government departments and authorities—although these rights vary with each authority. Some government departments have stronger investigative powers than others.

Sometimes, multi-departmental teams will target certain industries and investigate at the same time—such as Centrelink, Immigration, the Tax Office and Police.

SWOP suggests all sex workers and sex services premises owners read about their rights and responsibilities in advance. It can also be useful to have a printed copy of this information available in your workplace. Click here for more information.

When dealing with government departments, you always have the right to:

  • ask department officers to show their identification and any warrant to make sure the person is a genuine officer and has the necessary authority, and
  • refuse government staff entry to your workplace if they do not have authority.

If you are not sure of your rights when a department representative visits you, ask them to explain the purpose of their visit and how you might be expected to help. You might also be able to request that the person visit on another day and time, arranged by agreement.

If you are concerned, you can ask to speak to the person’s supervisor by phone to confirm their authority to enter the premises and speak with staff.

Sex workers have reported to SWOP that people have knocked on their door and pretended to be from council or other government agencies. This is another good reason to always ask for ID and to phone their department to check things out!

If a government officer asks to interview individual sex workers, those sex workers may have the right to choose where and with whom they speak. For example, a sex worker who agrees to speak with taxation or immigration officers must:

  • be able to speak with the officers in private
  • have two government officers present, and
  • be able to dress appropriately prior to the interview.

For more information about your rights when visited by government authorities, check our section on sex work law.